Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort
by Jack Corbett
Located on Wongamat Beach, the 550 room Pattaya Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort fully deserves its 5 star rating.
So much so that along with Central group's Central Festival shopping mall the two developments alone elevate Pattaya to an entirely different level. At 4500 baht ($150) for the standard room, it's pricy by Southeast Asian standards where you can get a nice hotel room in downtown Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi including breakfast for $50.00 U.S or less. But there's nothing else that quite measures up to it. And considering it's flanked by two stunning new condominium developments, Northpoint and the Cove, it becomes clear that Wongamat Beach is leading Pattaya to unprecedented heights.
I am fortunate to live less than half a mile from Centara where I can leave all the traffic and noise behind me and enter an entirely new world. The entryway is spectacular with its high arched ceiling and fresco of three sculpted elephants. There is a large gap underneath the two elephants through which one can view the Gulf of Thailand, and an open bar just beyond the fresco with a spectacular view of the ocean, the Cove Condominium to the South, and the Centara's extensive array of gardens, restaurants and pools.
It's Disneyland, Las Vegas, a Roman palace, and the Hong Kong skyline all rolled into one. Words alone cannot describe the view or the feeling of ambience one gets by simply strolling through Centara's grounds. There's a broad staircase from the main area upstairs to the gardens below. The sound of a waterfall can be heard from water cascading over a 2.5 meter high section of large boulders alongside the staircase. At the bottom of the stairway there's one or two restaurants extending to the right and just beyond those is Centara's exercise room. There must be thirty machines in it, most of them state of the art and quite expensive Life Fitness stair climbers, elliptical trainers and treadmills. A commercial Life Fitness elliptical trainer suitable for hotels and condo communities where they are subject to continuous use will cost $5000 and up. But the room's full of such machines and most of them are equipped with their own television screens. The locker rooms have their own Jacuzzis.
It is difficult to describe the swimming pools at Centara other than to say they resemble a maze. There's a large main pool and then there's several smaller ones all interconnected by small canals and lagoons. Here one can also find several waterslides. Children and adults alike can be found floating down the canals and lagoons in inner tubes and plastic rafts. Interspersed between the swimming pools are lounging areas, several of them secluded, the largest, the one next to the main pool, large and very public. There are several small suspended bridges crossing the canals. Crossing them one gets the sensation of walking out onto a floating platform. But the floating sensation arrives with each step since the bridged walkways are suspended from small towers of stone.
There's a handful of large lighted torches or lamps that with flames lighting up the night that are no doubt powered by natural gas. Looking at them one imagines them lighting up the palace grounds of ancient Greek and Roman cities. There are several more restaurants aside from the ones in the main building. There's one on the South side of the gardens that specializes in Thai and Japanese food. My favorite's the one on the Northwestern corner close to the beach. It's on the second floor. To get there I normally go through the main entry way of the main building, descend the staircase past the waterfall, then I got up a another flight of steps and cross over to the restaurant on one of the suspended walkways. I can see all over the gardens and pools from the little bridge while looking out at the Cove lit up in the night silhouetting the sky to the South.
Most of the dishes at the restaurant are too large and expensive for my tastes. Unlike most, I'm not on a two week holiday when I feel like I can splurge so the ideal of paying twenty-five to thirty dollars for dinner no matter how terrific it might be, just doesn't fit into my daily budget. I live here, full time. Both my girlfriend and I like the chicken breast for 320 baht because with it we can take advantage of Centara's magnificent salad bar. The service at this restaurant is nothing short of being absolutely terrific, the view is stupendous and one can hear the surf flowing out onto the beach below us.
By 3:00 p.m. Centara only had 50 rooms left of its total 550 and it's not even a weekend. And when I went to its web site checking room availability for several days from now, on one of the days Centara was sold out, on the other day the only availability was a 16500 baht suite ($550). I had to know who was forking over the big bucks. At the front desk I was informed that during the high season 80 % of the hotel's guests are Russian with 20 % being Thai, but during the low season these figures were reversed with 20 % being Russian and 80 % being Thai. Such figures do not count for discounted rates given to tour groups, however. For instance at agoda I found a rate for $105
As to those figures for where most of Centara's guests are coming from, I found them to be approximate because on closer examination of the desk clerk, the man said Europeans accounted for a very small percentage of the total (around 7 %) Nevertheless they revealed that Wongamat is increasingly being targeted by rich Russians and wealthy Thais. Luckily I live just down the street from this absolutely peerless hotel which means that in five minutes I can be walking through its front entrance on my way to having a beer overlooking the beach or enjoying the salad bar. Speaking from past experience booking hotels both in Thailand and Vietnam I can strongly recommend Agoda. But whichever way you go, Centara represents an experience that should not be missed.